In the theme of visiting new venues, last night I finally had the chance to visit The Rondo, a new venture by Phog Lounge owner Tom Lucier.
Located in the former Tequila Bob's/White Star/Dean Martini's location on Pitt St E, this medium (for Windsor) sized venue is pretty much the new Loop.
After the demise of The Loop Complex on Chatham and Ferry a couple of years back, Phog started hosting dance nights with DJ Double A. These events quickly outgrew the little red building, as displaced "alternative" dancers were missing their old haunt, so Tom began to hold the dance parties over at Venue Music Hall on Ouellette Ave.
So when that spot turned into Higher Limits, Tom was back to a tiny space and a lot of demand for his dance parties, which now included weekly stints from Soul Brother Stef.
So when it was announced this past summer that Tom would be opening a new, larger venue, everyone was excited. This is a guy who has proven his ability to book excellent bands and rad dance parties, so a place with a capacity of more than sixty seemed perfect.
The Rondo seems to have filled a void in Windsor's downtown scene, and it's doing a great job of it, even going so far as to employ some of the same staff from the beloved Loop Complex.
So of course I was anxious to check out a show there, but my schedule kept clashing with their bookings, so it took me three months to finally make it.
Last night The Rondo hosted the kickoff party for the annual CJAM Pledge Drive, that one time a year when the station asks listeners to donate in order to help keep things running for another twelve months. In addition to offering tshirts, CDs, and other music memorabilia, CJAM also hosts shows where the bands donate their sets and the proceeds go back to the station.
For the first of these events for this year, CJAM booked three of the most popular local folk-rock acts from the last year or so: Zarasutra, Border Patrol, and James OL and The Villains.
Zarasutra (Zara Dureno) is a folk singer-songwriter who's album Uncertain Assertionshas been a popular go-to at CJAM since its release in 2014. This was my first time catching her live, and it was awesome, if not surprising, to hear how well her on-stage performance lives up to her recordings. Her music is soulful and haunting, held up completely on its own without other backing instrumentals. During her set Zara mentioned that she is currently working on a new album which she hopes to have out in a few months.
I've been all about Border Patrol's Toxic Thought Machine since its release earlier this year, but hadn't seen them live prior to last night. I was absolutely floored. This band has the perfect mixture of fantastic tunes, instrumental talent, and onstage presence.
The Rondo's audio engineer Scott Barlow did an excellent job of mixing the band, but that of course is always easier when the band is as good as this one, with instruments that don't infringe upon each other's frequency ranges and amps that aren't set to an overly destructive volume.
With the rise of folk-rock bands like The Strumbellas and Mumford and Sons, there are similar acts popping up in local scenes all over the place, but Border Patrol is a group that is putting their own spin on the genre. They take serious themes and discuss them in non-serious ways with their music, according to lead vocalist and guitarist Dave Toennies during last night's performance. Their unique sound is due in part to Toennie's fantastic voice, which is complemented extremely well by the harmonies of Walter Senko and Cody Howard.
So my main point is this: check out Border Patrol. I recommend the Tracks "Drones" and "Funemployment."
Closing out the night was James OL and The Villains, a classic Windsor favourite. CJAM listeners voted these dudes as the best local band in 2015, and their popularity still holds. There's nothing I can say about this band that hasn't been said before, so I'll just make it easy: go listen to On The Banks of the Detroit River.